How to avoid summer setback

Written by contributor Jena Borah of Yarns of the Heart

Do you know about summer setback? Education researchers say a child can lose up to two months of reading achievement between May and August. If this happens every summer, children can lose up to a year and a half between 1st and 6th grade (Cooper et al., 1996).

Why? Because their home lives are not full of books and enriching experiences. Whatever learning momentum they had gained during the school year comes to a screeching halt. When I heard that, I was amazed! We homeschoolers never stop learning.

As I thought about these two worlds, the homeschooling world and the summer setback world, I realized the difference is us, the parents. Homeschooling parents are paying attention to their kids and taking responsibility for their education. We’re not leaving it up to someone else. We don’t put learning on hold until it starts back up in the fall.

So, here’s to you, homeschoolers! And here’s a little help to keep that momentum going all year long.

Finding the Right Books

Database of Award Winning Children’s Literature: Here you can choose parameters like your child’s age, interests, genre, and historical period. All the titles will be award-winners from around the world.

Arbookfind: Type in the name of your child’s favorite book that he can read with ease and this search engine will tell you the BL or book level. Along the left sidebar you will find links to take you to more books at that level.

Lexiles: Type in the name of a favorite book that your child can read with 99% accuracy. This search engine will give you the lexile level of that book. Now you can find other books at that level.

Scholastic: Find books based on your child’s lexile (see instructions above). Don’t worry about grade levels. Click on the lexile range for your child and recommendations will pop up.

I’m writing more about how to find the right books on my blog this month, so if you need more guidance, see here.

Spend this hot summer at the library, armed with a list of books your child can read, and don’t forget to let him bring home whatever interests him, even if it seems too advanced.

Opportunity and Exploration.

Those are the keys to avoiding summer setback.

How are you keeping learning alive this summer?


Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66, 227-268.

About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.


  1. My kids seem to think that the real reason to have a summer vacation is so that they can read 3 or 4 hours a day. I think it’s funny that the “break” is educational. This summer, I am doing the Life of Fred math series with my younger two. It is a fun way to keep them interested in math through the summer, and since it is story based, they actually beg to do another chapter. I also like to make sure we have lots of non-fiction books from the library in the house all the time, so that they have good “browsing” in their reading time.
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  2. These are great resources, thanks!
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  3. Thank you for sharing the resources you mentioned. It can be somewhat difficult to figure out when going to the library, the age/reader ability when selecting books. This summer we have been working on learning a little bit about the United States (capitals, location on the map)…in addition to reading, which I am so so thankful that my daughters love to read. But as you mentioned, it is always good to keep fresh the other subjects, just so that it stays stays within their mind/skill level and do not feel like you are backtracking.

  4. Thank you for the great links Jena! I hope you are enjoying your quiet at home.

  5. I always hated when teachers would give us reading lists and assignments over the summer. Summer is about enjoying each other and the beautiful outdoors. I think any learning that happens as a natural result of that is great but I will not be pushing any books or other “learning” activities at them. Even though they may forget some of what they have learned by taking a break from the books, they gain so much more important life lessons during this down time.
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  6. I think this was the biggest reason we decided to homeschool year-round, which didn’t end up being near as painful as it sounds. Daily practice of math skills, in particular, has been a HUGE help. My son remembers more, and that improves his confidence.
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  7. marianne parker says:

    Both of our sons go to public school during a traditional year – but we certainly keep up the learning all summer. Our homeschool friends call us hybrid schoolers. My 15 year old is at a local university learning about engineering and manufacturing. My 12 year old is at Boy Scout summer camp working on climbing and canoeing this week. :)! Summer learning isn’t just for homeschoolers!!

  8. Pam Smith says:

    I have two super active boys 6 & 7 that don’t stop often for reading, I would love some ideas of “active” books.

  9. I often forget that what I think of as normal life others would see as ‘learning’ time. Playing co operative board games, drawing, reading, listening to audio stories and drifting pleasantly through our days are things I’m enjoying now and through the year. I like the idea that education is an atmosphere and if children are surrounded by nourishing possibilities they can’t go wrong no matter what they choose to do!
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  10. Welcome back Jena. I am so happy to hear your voice here. We need it!
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  11. I love these suggestions! We do VERY basis things during the summer to stay fresh- but mostly watercolors always available at the table, stacks of books, and singing kids’ songs (that happen to be ‘educational’)
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  12. Sounds perfect!
    Jena’s latest post: How to Find the Right Books for Your Readers

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